Ways to learn, improve professional skills at UTC

By Heather Newlin, Chattanooga, Tenn. — College is written off as a time when students put all their focus on building their academic skills to prepare them for a career. However, school years are prime time to develop professional skills that tend to be just as, if not more, valuable in the professional world.

The ways you can get started are numerous, easy, and free; here’s the first five ways recommended by UTC professors and students on how you can get started.

  1. Take advantage of access to your professors to build communication skills and relationships.  Participate in class discussion, visit office hours, and work in groups to build verbal communication skills. This is also a great way to make a good impression on your professor, who likely has a lot of valuable connections in their field that you will want.

As for writing, Dr. Rik Hunter of the English department said, “You should be meeting with your professors about your writing. That is, be proactive and get to their office hours. Just because you’ve written strong papers in one class and academic discipline doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be successful with a new professor and/or discipline. Genre conventions and expectations change from context to context. And always look for samples of particular genres to imitate.”

  1. Learn in unconventional ways. Participate in ThinkAchieve, a program at UTC that provides opportunities for experience-based and applied learning. Sign up by February 1 in office 433 of the Library to join the Semester of Experience. This gives you access to information on a variety of upcoming events, ranging from leadership training seminars to events filled with pointers from successful CEOs. Any kind of unconventional learning that you do gives you practice adapting to unfamiliar situations, helps you think in new ways, and lets you develop your personal interests.
  2. Practice effective decision making. Being decisive shows competence and confidence, skills highly valued by employers.

Mikey Clavin, a junior at UTC from Hendersonville, Tenn, said, “I do a lot of reporting and forecasting for the renewable energy programs at TVA, and every report that I have to submit has a strict deadline. I have learned that it is very important to quickly decide what methods and tools to use for each report in order to complete my work in a timely matter.”

  1. Hone your research skills. Tiffany Mitchell, a professor in the English department who teaches Professional Writing (among other courses), recommends careful research as a key to success in the professional world.

    In order to be successful in any field, the students need to know about the field or the company, know the language, culture of the organization, etc. The first step to working for any organization, in any capacity, is to research the organization so you find out all you can about them, their culture, what they do, etc. prior to pursuing any type of employment–internship or otherwise,” said Mitchell.Mitchell recommends a one-on-one research appointment with one of the reference librarians as a great resource for improving research.

5. Take advantage of UTC-specific opportunities. Visit the Writing and Communication Center to get feedback on your writing. Perfect your resume, learn how to research job openings, and improve your interview skills with the Career Starter Series at the library. Attend other library workshops to learn how to use software, master writing styles, or get organized. In addition, the Career and Student Placement Center offers further help with Resumes and Moc(k) interviews geared toward job search preparation. 

Sarah-Grace Battles

Sarah-Grace Battles


Sarah-Grace is a Communication major with a double minor in Political Science and Women’s Studies. She hopes to attend law school after she graduates. When she’s not cheering for Alabama football, she loves to read, be outdoors, try new restaurants and be with her family and friends.

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